Washington University graduate Rochelle Walensky takes over as new head of the CDC

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FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 file photo, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del., to announce President-elect Joe Biden’s health care team. Walensky, 51, an infectious-diseases specialist formerly at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, became CDC director on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

ST. LOUIS, Mo- The first full day of the Biden presidential administration saw the release Thursday of what’s being billed as a “wartime” strategy for dealing with COVID, according to Axios.

Someone who figures to play a leading role in that strategy got her college education in St. Louis.

Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, a 1991 Washington University graduate, is now the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after being named to the post last month. She was previously Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Below is the statement she shared Wednesday on her first day of the job at the CDC:

It is truly a privilege to join the world’s premier public health agency. For 75 years, CDC has carried out a mission to protect America’s safety, health, and security at home and abroad.

I am proud to join this agency, and I recognize the seriousness of the moment. The toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on America is truly heartbreaking — for the loss of our loved ones and our beloved ways of life. At Massachusetts General Hospital, I saw firsthand the many difficulties this pandemic brings to our frontline workers and first responders, hospitals and public health systems, communities, and loved ones.

Better, healthier days lie ahead. But to get there, COVID-19 testing, surveillance, and vaccination must accelerate rapidly. We must also confront the longstanding public health challenges of social and racial injustice and inequity that have demanded action for far too long. And we must make up for potentially lost ground in areas like suicide, substance use disorder and overdose, chronic diseases, and global health initiatives.

America and the world are counting on CDC’s science and leadership. Just as it has since the beginning of the pandemic, CDC will continue to focus on what is known — and what more can be learned — about the virus to guide America. As part of that promise, CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat will begin leading a comprehensive review of all existing guidance related to COVID-19. Wherever needed, this guidance will be updated so that people can make decisions and take action based upon the best available evidence.

I am so proud to join CDC. Our 24/7 mission is truly more critical than ever.

Walensky discussed her priorities in a Periscope session with The Journal of the American Medical Association prior to her first day on the job.

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